When one looks over the history of the Tennessee Tech softball program, a few things stand out. It could be the consistent play of the Tech teams year-in and year-out. It could be the four appearances in the NCAA Tournament and of course it could be head coach Tory Acheson returning for his 13th season at the helm.
Acheson brings with him into the 2011 season an experienced group of players including six seniors and five juniors in a 24-player roster. To put things in perspective, during the previous two seasons the Golden Eagles have featured only one senior since 2009.
“We’re hoping to cash in on the hard fought experiences over the last few seasons,” head coach Tory Acheson said. “We will rely on some established veterans to lead us back to the top of the OVC.”
The Golden Eagle softball team begins its 2011 season Saturday as it takes part in the Georgia State Tournament. Tech begins with Syracuse and finishes the day against the host Georgia State. The first pitches are set for 9:00 and 11:15 a.m. CT.
In the Outfield
Running around in the outfield this season, Tech fans will see a combination of some familiar and not so familiar faces. Senior Kaleigh Gates returns for her fourth installment as a member of the Golden Eagles and will be looked too provide leadership as she takes over the centerfield duties. Junior Jordan Leff returns for her third season after being named the team’s Best Defensive Outfielder for the second straight season and will shore things up in left field.
“We expect to see a veteran group in the outfield with five players competing for a spot,” Acheson said. “We’re counting on our outfield play to be a strength for us.”
Junior Brooke Basten brings an additional two seasons of experience to the outfield corps. She brings a solid glove to the table as she has committed only two errors in 87 games played. Returning seniors Abbey Hayes and Anna Zdroik will also earn some time in the outfield.
Joining this experienced group will be three newcomers in junior Tabitha McNew and freshmen Tyler Templet and Kayla Floyd. Each of these players will have the opportunity to show what they can provide to the team on the field.
In the Infield
Tennessee Tech’s infield will feature a different array of talent anchored by senior Lacie Coquerille.
“The infield looks to be very solid,” Acheson said. “Getting Lacie back will improve the team’s consistency and the capabilities in the infield.”
Twice voted the team’s Most Valuable Player and the Best Defensive Infielder, Coquerille returns for her senior season on the heels of another fine season at second base. During her junior campaign, Coquerille recorded 39 hits and scored 21 runs while maintaining a .277 batting average. She backed that up with another solid performance in the field as she committed only one error while holding a .995 fielding percentage.
Tech also welcomes back a pair of members of the 2010 OVC all-newcomer team in Melody Christian and Chanelle Spalding to take the reigns at the corners.
Christian put up great numbers during her freshman campaign. Leading the team with a .328 batting average, she recorded a team-high 62 hits and scored a team-leading 32 runs. She also paced the Golden Eagles on the base paths posting 16 stolen bases in 18 attempts. Christian was named Tech’s Freshman of the Year for her efforts and will be looked to provide another solid year at the hot corner.
“Melody has got a bright future in front of her both offensively and defensively,” Acheson said.
Chanelle Spalding was not far behind Christian in 2010 as she hit for a .310 batting average and scored 25 runs while driving in 10. She also showed patience at the plate as she ranked second on the team in walks with 26 and put together a .431 on base percentage. She is projected as the starter at first base.
Chanelle also had a solid freshman year,” Acheson said. “Her performance down the stretch was part of our surge both on offense and on defense.”
Sophomore Samantha Everett will be tabbed as the go-to starter at shortstop after playing in 39 games during her freshman season.
“Samantha settled down well down the stretch at shortstop,” Acheson said. “We’re hoping to have more stability in the infield as a result.”
Senior Callie Schmidt returns for her final season behind the plate. Named TTU’s Most Improved Player a season ago, Schmidt was one of two Golden Eagles who played in every game last season and maintained a steady .282 batting average. While helping to keep the opponent power hitters in check last season, Schmidt provided quite a bit of power when her turn came as she drove in a team-high 42 runs and knocked nine pitches over the fence. Schmidt’s defense also stood out as she only made six errors for a .984 fielding percentage.
“Callie is poised to have a strong senior campaign,” Acheson said. “She has worked hard in the offseason and we’ll be looking for her to provide offensively.”
Freshmen Kendall Hooper andEmma Woo will shore up Tech’s battery throughout the season.
“We have two strong freshmen behind Callie in Emma and Kendall,” Acheson said. “Callie won’t be needed to play every inning of every game, but we know that she is capable of doing that if we need her to.”
“We have three pitchers who will contribute this season,” Acheson said.
Mainstay Holly Thomas notched a team-high 16 wins in 2010 while maintaining a 2.81 ERA. During her two seasons at Tech, she has won 30 games and tallied 261 strike outs in 360 innings pitched.
“Holly is the cornerstone of the staff,” Acheson said. “Last season she showed what she is capable of contributing. We’re counting on her to give us consistent performances throughout the season.”
The team will also look to Whitney Cummings and Claudia Harke to step in and make an impact.
“Claudia got quality innings in last season, Acheson said. “We’re hoping she can fill a meaningful spot in the rotation.
“Whitney has pitched here or there but we are counting on her to contribute like a baseball close,” Acheson continued. “Her style and skills are different and we’re counting on her giving batters different looks to throw them off.”